I Am Afraid my Ex-Spouse will Harm Me and My Children, What Can I Do?
Divorces can get messy, and in the aftermath, emotions can run high. In most cases, things settle down after a while, the parties adjust to life after the divorce, and do their best to move forward. There are times, however, when an ex-spouse is driven over the edge and indicates (by words or actions) that s/he is out to do the other (and even their children) harm. This can be a very scary situation, and those who feel threatened must take swift actions to protect themselves.
If you believe that your ex-spouse may harm you and your children, you may not know where to turn to get the protection you need. In these types of cases, an ex may have a history or domestic violence or abuse, or this type of behavior may have begun after you were separated or divorced. The specific relief you obtain will depend on the individual circumstances of your case. That said, here are the steps you should take if you believe you and your kids are in danger:
Contact the Police
If you feel like the threatening words or actions of your ex put you and your child(ren) in imminent danger, you should report that to the police right away. This is important for several reasons. The police will be able to help ensure you are out of any immediate danger, and they can help you determine what your next steps should be (depending again on your specific circumstances). Reporting the incident to the police also creates documentation of its occurrence and lists the details of what happened. This may be critical later on if your case ends up in court.
Take out an Emergency Restraining Order
In Alabama, you can take out a restraining order against your ex-spouse to forbid them from contacting you or showing up in the same place. This is known as a Protection from Abuse (PFA) order. An emergency PFA can be obtained without the need to go through a full court hearing if you can show a judge that it is necessary to protect you and/or your children from the immediate danger of abuse. Emergency PFAs usually go into effect right away, and they are typically valid for 10 days or whatever length of time is needed to schedule a full court hearing.
You can obtain an emergency PFA without your ex-spouse being present. The PFA can do one or more of the following:
- Order your ex to stop abusing (or threatening to abuse) you and/or your child(ren);
- Order your ex to stop harassing, stalking, or annoying you and/or your child(ren);
- Order your ex to refrain from contacting you and/or your child(ren) either directly or indirectly;
- Order your ex to stay at least 300 feet away from your home, work, school, children’s day care, or whatever other location you list;
- Grant you temporary custody of your child(ren);
- Order any other relief necessary for the safety of you and your child(ren).
While waiting for the full court hearing, you need to take steps to stay safe and prepare for the upcoming hearing. The full hearing is a very critical step, because it will determine if the relief granted in the temporary order will be made permanent. One of the most important outcomes you may be seeking is to obtain sole custody of the child(ren) with no visitation rights. For this reason, it is important to keep detailed records of all the abuse (and threatened abuse) that has occurred.
Keep a journal of everything that has happened, including dates, times, details, etc. Retain all voice and electronic communication, such as phone calls, texts, social media communications, etc. And enlist the help of family and friends who have knowledge of what has happened as witnesses.
Obtain Permanent Protective Relief
At the full court hearing, you and your ex are given the opportunity to present your case to the judge. At this hearing, you will present all evidence demonstrating the abusive and/or harassing threats and behavior and ask the judge for various forms of relief. If a final protection from abuse (PFA) order is issued, it can be permanent unless a judge says otherwise, or it is later modified.
Obtain Strong Legal Guidance throughout the Process
When you feel endangered by an ex-spouse, it is a frightening situation that can be difficult to handle on your own. If you are in this situation, a seasoned family law attorney can help you obtain the necessary and appropriate legal relief. At Smith & McGhee, PC, we have extensive experience with domestic abuse cases and restraining orders. Our attorneys have in-depth knowledge of both family law and criminal law, and the convergence of these two areas of law in these types of cases. We are skilled, compassionate, and dedicated to protecting the rights and interests of each client we serve. For immediate help, contact our Dothan Alabama office today at 334-708-3158.